Dinneen, Coleman talk RVO numbers, EPA at FEW

By Holly Jessen | June 02, 2015

The first full day of the International Fuel Ethanol Workshop & Expo kicked off June 2 with rousing speeches on the U.S. EPA’s recently released proposal for the renewable fuel standard (RFS) renewable volume obligations (RVOs) for 2014, 2015 and 2016. Bob Dinneen, president and CEO of the Renewable Fuels Association, took the stage first, giving a 13 point keynote presentation on what EPA has gotten wrong, besides its recent RVO proposal. Next up was Brooke Coleman, executive director of the Advanced Ethanol Council, who said the big question, whether EPA knows it or not, is if RFS2 will be implemented or if the oil industry will win the fight to stick with RFS1.

Dinneen joked at the beginning that he had been worried, before the EPA released the details of its proposal, that he would have nothing to talk about for his keynote presentation at FEW. “But, thankfully, EPA came through,” he said, adding that the agency regifted basically the same proposal put out in 2013, for the 2014 RVO numbers. “It looks strangely familiar,” he said.

Although EPA claims the proposal breaks the blend wall, Dinneen said it merely scratches the blend wall. The proposed rule, as it stands, will minimize the amount of low priced ethanol in the marketplace and result in more petroleum and less renewable fuels available to consumers. “Who wins with what the EPA has just done?” he asked? “The oil companies.” The losers are farmers, consumers and biofuel producers.

After the proposal came out, Dinneen was asked if he was surprised by the numbers. His answer was no. On reflection, he realized why he wasn’t surprised. The current EPA has a history of rolling back progress on the RFS, a program which has been an unmitigated success. When given a choice, this EPA has made the wrong choice on a number of issues. Some of those 13 wrong choices he listed include the EPA’s refusal to update its indirect land-use change analysis, the numbers for which have now been proven wrong, the length of time it has taken for them to accomplish certain tasks, like naming corn kernel fiber as cellulosic material, its refusal to provide E10 and E15 volatility waiver parity, eliminating the CAFE credit for flex-fuel vehicles and other actions, all of which have discouraged the advancement of the renewable fuels industry. “This EPA doesn’t get it,” he said.

Dinneen ended by reminding audience members that these RVO numbers are a proposal. He strongly encouraged people to attend a public hearing will be held in Kansas City on June 21.  “I beg  you to make your voice heard,” he said, adding that calls to make legislative changes to the RFS aren’t what are needed. “There’s nothing wrong with the law, there’s something definitely wrong with EPA.”

Coleman followed that up by saying what the members of AEC want is access to consumers and to be paid for the premium fuel they produce. President George W. Bush implemented the RFS, he said, and, at least to this point, President Barack Obama has been “too weak kneed” to implement it. “What is disappointing is that the oil industry has found a friend with the president,” he said.

One big problem is, that although Congress didn’t specify a waiver credit needed to be provided by the EPA for every gallon of cellulosic ethanol required, that’s what the agency is doing. And, if the oil industry has access to a cheap waiver credit, why should they purchase actual gallons of cellulosic ethanol?

Still, Coleman feels there is hope the problem can be solved, putting the industry in a very different position come November. For one thing, the industry is highly organized and collaborative, he said, naming Fuels America as an example of that. The focus needs to be on the source of the problem. “It’s an EPA problem, it’s a president problem,” he said.